Thursday, May 23, 2024

Holocaust Commemoration, 2024

Earlier in May, the city of Cambridge held its annual Holocaust Commemoration hosted by Brian Corr and the Cambridge Peace Commission.

This year was a particularly harrowing one given the explosive mix of the world's events: the war in Gaza and the rise of right-wing authoritarianism and fascism in this country and around the globe. Brian made it clear that this ceremony was to remember events of 1930s and '40s Europe and was not an opportunity to editorialize on our current topics du jour, no matter how pressing or upsetting they may be. The speaker was the 100-year-old Esther Adler, who grew up in Breslau but fled the Nazis in 1938 to Palestine. Her amazing story and her redolent humor filled the room. It's not often that you hear a gathering of Jewish people laugh at the mention of Kristallnacht, but that is what happened. It's also worth noting that this is an interfaith event, with rabbis, pastors and imams all present. 

I was asked to introduce the poem Bashert which is read aloud every year. Here are the brief comments I made before we began. It is a truncated version of my comments from the 2019 event, which I also posted in this blog.

As part of tonight's commemoration, we read Bashert. "Bashert" is written by Irene Klepfisz and it means something like "destiny" in Yiddish.

Klepfisz tells us the fate of many people, propelled by random chance or simply a desire to survive.

These were people she presumably knew, and they come alive for us because we know them too, in our memories, in our lives and in ourselves.

We say about the Holocaust that we should "Never Forget." Tonight, we remember many things:

  • We remember all communities that have faced or face repression or persecution or genocide, wherever and whoever they may be.
  • We remember our own commitment to confronting intolerance and our recommitment to one common humanity.
  • And we remember our admiration for the human spirit ... its profound ability to resist and be resilient ... but also its deep ability for caring and kindness.

This is a responsive reading ...